Chinese ground down by rules pin hopes on secret plan

By Malcolm Moore

As Beijing's arid summer turned to autumn, Zhang Jianyi packed the suitcases of her 16-year-old son, Fei, and took him to the railway station for a 1450km journey south.

Fei, an average student but a keen basketball player and artist, was born and raised in China's capital. But because of a piece of bureaucracy left over from hardline Communism, he now has to go to senior school in the county where his parents were born, deep in the countryside.

Fei is enrolled in a state-run boarding school, while his parents and brother will continue to live in Beijing.

Underneath the image of bullet trains and skyscrapers, everyday life continues to be frustratingly governed by countless such Kafkaesque regulations. The new Chinese leadership, under Xi Jinping, the President, is working on a plan that many hope will sweep away some of the state's overbearing control and re-energise an economy that is starting to slow. The meeting of 376 members of the Communist party's Central Committee is secret. No one will know its outcome until a document is delivered tomorrow.

To get her younger son, Feng, into primary school this summer, Zhang had to take 10 days off work and call in a range of favours to tick all the boxes on the application.

"They needed seven documents, three of which I did not have."

The root of her difficulties lies in a small brown plastic wallet, with the words "household register" stamped on the front. This document, known as a hukou, ties her to her place of birth and classes her as a rural resident, even though she has spent more than half her life in Beijing. She is not entitled to buy a house in the city, nor is she guaranteed education for her children.

On the table at the meeting are discussions over whether to allow farmers the chance to sell their land, a change that could see China embrace modern, large-scale farming, and how to change the tax system to give local governments more sustainable budgets. There is also a broad push for state-owned companies to be dismantled or at least forced into professional management. The financial sector could also see increased liberalisation.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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